Disney’s Had Us On Strings for Decades
Even before their recent acquisitions of Marvel, Star Wars, and 20th Century Fox, the media giant had a winning hand.
With the launch of Disney+ last week, Disney has solidified itself as a force of entertainment nature. I firmly believe that the poor box office turnout this weekend is, in part, due to the launch of the sought-after streaming service, which reportedly roped in over 10 million subscribers within its first twenty-four hours. With an exceptionally competitive price, a vast library, and a gold standard brand, Disney+ has made some massive waves in the industry.
Recently, much as been made of Disney’s acquisitions of Marvel, Star Wars, and now 20th Century Fox. Like Thanos collecting Infinity Stones, Disney has been collecting IP, steadily growing their already impressive roster. Is Disney becoming too powerful? Are they becoming something of a monopoly in the entertainment industry? These are valid questions that need to be discussed. But the truth remains that this is not a new problem. Good ol’ Walt has had us by the balls for decades. These new developments have certainly made it more apparent, but even without the new IP they’ve picked up in the last decade, Disney was always a force to be reckoned with.
For one thing, Disney has been a significant voice in family-friendly entertainment since their inception. With an emphasis on driving the entertainment industry forward with innovative technology and storytelling, Disney had something special right out of the gate. Their best has been unparalleled, their achievements in family entertainment inimitable. Every child, particularly from the ‘60s onward, grew up with Disney entertainment. Over the years, they’ve built a reputation for quality entertainment suitable for all ages. So what do you do with a reputation like that?
You make it exclusive, of course. You create a fictional “vault” and you stick your films in there, only to release them for limited times every few years or so. You deny your television shows releases on DVD, and withhold streaming and syndication rights. You air them in marathons once every few years. When you do make your best films and television shows available for purchase on a new format, you charge the same amount as a new release title. Why not? People will pay for it.
So now, with the streaming wars heating up, Disney has decided to make the majority of their library available for the low cost of $6.99 a month. And, like Cy-Bugs to a Diet Cola eruption (that’s a Wreck-It Ralph reference for the uninitiated), the public flocked to it. Yet, as I was watching Goof Troop in freshly purchased A Goofy Movie boxer briefs, I came to a realization. Disney didn’t need Marvel or Star Wars to earn my — or most other people’s — subscription.
The only thing from Marvel’s recent acquisitions that I have watched so far in my first week of subscription was The Mandalorian. Out of everything in the vast catalogue offered to me, I had stuck largely to ‘90s and early ‘00s Disney Channel shows, cartoons, and movies from my childhood — all of which were created long before Disney’s expansion.
Nostalgia is a hell of a drug, and Disney+ is one of the best highs I’ve had in a while. Goof Troop, Even Stevens, The Mighty Ducks, and more? It’s been heaven. The truth is, for a lot of the generations currently subscribing to Disney+, Marvel and Star Wars is simply that added bonus, the “plus.” But the company that created consistently entertaining childhood magic for generations didn’t need those properties to entice people onto their platform. Sure, now that they have them, they’re nice assets, especially considering the box office gold that these brands are turning out. But the truth remains that Disney+ could have broken the industry without a single property acquired in the past decade.
Sure, Star Wars (1977) trended on release day for an odd edit to the “Han shot first” scene, and The Mandalorian has received an unsurprising amount of buzz. The platform also received a bit of criticism for the changes to The Simpson’s aspect ratio. But most of the chatter surrounding Disney+ has been about classic Disney, Disney Channel shows and movies, and the rush of nostalgia that comes with it. Subscribers have gravitated towards old titles that were previously unavailable, ones that remind them of simpler times.
So, yes, Disney is becoming bigger than ever, and the consequences are questionable at best. But anyone that would argue this as some new development is kidding themselves. The House of Mouse has been playing the long game for years, using quality and exclusivity to create an insane demand, and only now have they finally released the supply. Their monopoly on the public’s collective childhood is nothing new; it’s just easier than ever to see it.
I’m sure I’ll get around to watching the Marvel, Star Wars, and Fox properties now at my disposal eventually. But for now, I’ll happily be Disney’s puppet, binge-watching Kim Possible and riding this insane nostalgia high. Now if only Disney+ would make Fillmore! available for streaming…